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Former band director inducted into Music Educators' Hall of Fam

by Jennifer Biller

STAFF WRITER

John Christian wanted to play sports as a child -- not the trumpet.

But his father insisted, and decades later Christian has become a successful professional musician, band director and private music instructor.

Last week, he was inducted into the West Virginia Music Educators' Association Hall of Fame. Only 11 other musicians in the state have become part of this esteemed group, which rewards excellence in teaching and music achievement.

"I feel very honored to be selected as part of this organization by people I have worked with through the years," Christian said.

Locally, he is perhaps best known for his role as a band director. He served in that position at Washington Irving High School in Clarksburg for 13 years, until he moved on to Bridgeport High School, where he directed for another 13 years before retiring.

He spent countless hours with his bands during and after school at Friday night football games, Saturday parades, concerts, band camps and after-school programs.

"It's such gratification when you work with the kids and see them accomplish something," Christian said. "It's been the most rewarding part of my career to start at the beginning of the year and work on shows and concert music and see how they progress."

Barry Vingle, band director at Fairmont Senior High School, nominated Christian for the hall of fame award.

"I thought he'd contributed many years to directing high school bands and educating kids," Vingle said.

"The kids who've been under him really looked up to him ... he relates to them so well."

So much in fact, Christian has received letters from former students thanking him for his contribution to their lives -- both musically and personally.

Randall Hall, fellow hall-of-famer and former Bridgeport High School band director, has worked with Christian throughout the years and seen his bands perform.

"He knew how to get the best out of his students in the pursuit of living up to his high musical standards," Hall said. "They appreciated his willingness to do all he could do to help them progress, and so many of his students' interest in music didn't stop at high school."

Although he is now retired, Christian still plays trumpet professionally and teaches music lessons to students. He is quite proud of the students he gives private lessons, three of which just recently qualified for the West Virginia All State Band.

He is also involved in local theater orchestras and is currently playing for the Act II Theater Company's production of "Big River -- The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" in Clarksburg.

He has played with such big names as The Temptations, Dizzy Gillespie and Jim Nabors during his eclectic career.

Christian is grateful to all of those in his life who have influenced his love of music and recalled the irony of his love/hate relationship with the trumpet at the very beginning.

"When I was in third grade, my dad took me to the music store and told me I was going to play an instrument," he said. "I wanted to play football, but he forced me to take trumpet lessons.

"Now, I just wish he was still around to see me -- because it ended up being my profession," he said.

Staff writer Jennifer Biller can be reached at 626-1449 or jbiller@exponent-telegram.com.

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